Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

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Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Media Watch
Start assembling your summer reading list now

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the June 10, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)

Book Review

Every now and then along comes a book that has the potential to change lives. Jesuit Father James Martin has written an extraordinary spiritual book that has the capacity of serving as a retreat for the average reader. The book is titled The Jesuit Guide To (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life. It is published by Harper One for a list price in hardcover of $26.99.

No religious book in the last couple of years has touched me as deeply as Father Martin’s work. He has the great gift of taking rather complicated theological ideas or ways of prayer and making them totally accessible for the ordinary Catholic. For example, he has a page-and-a-half on the centering prayer that condenses all the many explanations down and serves as an excellent help in learning how to pray that prayer.

Of course the book centers on the Jesuit Spiritual Exercises, Jesuit history, the religious vows, and the call to serving our neighbor. But Father Martin brings to it stories from his own life before, during and after in reference to his 20 years as a Jesuit. To it he adds the stories of Jesuit Anthony De Mello and stories from the lives of many Jesuits from long ago and today.

Father Martin is very self-revealing in speaking of his years of working for G.E., his time in the novitiate, his work in Africa, and at America magazine up to today. His section of the religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience are broadened out to show how these familiar vows go beyond religious to have real meaning for the average person. For example, in his section on Chastity he speaks of the call to love freely. He writes: “One of the hardest parts of love is this: allowing the other to love you as he or she can, not as you want to be loved.” And later, “Giving people the freedom to be who they are is a form of love. It says, ‘I love you for who you are, not for who I want you to be.’ This reverences the person God created.”

There is a long section on making decisions using the Ignatian method of decernment. Also an excellent section on work as a vocation.

One fascinating historical piece of information is that between 1650-1700 it is estimated that roughly 100,000 productions of Jesuit plays took place in Europe. In 1574 one play performed in Munich transformed almost the entire town into a backdrop, with 1,000 actors taking part.

Father James Martin’s Jesuit Guide is meant to be read by anyone, including seekers and non-believers. But for Catholics it has special meaning and the ability in these somewhat difficult times to bring a sense of joy and hope to our following of Christ in the midst of all the wounded people in his Church.

Recently Received

On May 16 Dana Gioia, California poet, received the prestigious Laetare Medal at the University of Notre Dame graduation in Indiana. He gave a memorable address to the students, emphasizing his gratitude for his family of immigrants and 12 years of Catholic education, part of which he was influenced by the Providence Sisters. The speech is available at the Notre Dame web site.

From 2002-2009 Gioia was chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts in Washington D. C. The not-for-profit publisher Graywolf Press recently sent the Inland Register several of Gioia’s books. I was impressed by his 2001 Interrogations At Noon, which sells in softcover for a list price of $14.

In Interrogations Gioia often connects with classical themes and writers. But he also has very contemporary poems on love, family, identity, memory, and what might have been. This Catholic writer of Mexican-Italian extraction writes with a haunting sacramental style. And in his poetry there is a call for justice for the poor.

Among the poems that stand out for me are “Pentecost: after the death of our son,” “The Archbishop: for a famous critic,” “Summer Storm,” and “The Lost Garden.”

To give you a sense of Gioia’s poetry, here is the last stanza from “The Lost Garden”:

The trick in making memory a blessing,
To learn by loss the cool subtraction ofdesire,
Of wanting nothing more than what has been,
To know the past forever lost, yet seeing
Behind the wall a garden still in blossom.

Dana Gioia is a poet who speaks from the human spirit and touches those who find and read his wonderful words.


Scot Paul Frush is the author of the recent large-size paperback titled Ultimate Catholic Trivia: 1001 Fun and Fascinating Facts. It is published by Marshall Rand Publishing of Royal Oak, Michigan at a list price of $9.95.

The book is filled with quiz-like questions about Roman Catholicism that could be used as a parlor game for adults or a teacher could use for a game-like learning event in class or in a home-school program. A person who enjoys facts would find this book a useful tool in learning. A less fact-centered person would probably find this whole exercise less than helpful.

Question One, asks “What is the name given to the four books of the Bible that describe the life and teachings of Jesus?” The answer, on the easier side, is “The Gospels.”

On the more difficult side, Question 186 asks “What is unique about the name Pope Marcellus II who reigned in A.D. 1555?” The answer is, “Last pope to use his birth name instead of adopting a regnal name.” In question 99 I learned that regnal names are the formal names adopted by popes.

Ultimate Catholic Trivia has some pretty serious and informative questions that might be particularly helpful for an adult who has recently been baptized or received into the Church. In an enjoyable way it would give that person more information than I or many Catholics would be able to answer in question form.

(Father Caswell is Ecumenical Relations Officer for the Spokane diocese and Inland Register archivist.)

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